How to help your cat overcome anxiety

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As Seen With - Cathy Rosenthal

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How to help your cat overcome anxiety

Updated May 9, 2022

Dear Cathy,

We got our rescue cat in October 2015 as a seven-month-old kitten.  As soon as she got in the house, she went under the bed and came out only to eat and use the litter box.  A year later, she still hid under the bed but came out more often to snoop around the house.  As soon as anyone moved though, she raced back under the bed.

Since the beginning of this year, she comes out at night and sleeps in our bed with us. At daybreak, she is back under the bed again until nighttime.  When we are watching television, she comes into the hallway and starts “talking” to us. But as soon as one of us gets up, she is back under the bed.

I have a bag of treats, and when she hears me open it, she comes running to me.  Sometimes, she stays out, and we play a little.  She does not play with any of the toys we bought her.

She lets us pick her up, but not for long, and she does purr.  She is not curious about anything, open bags, crawling things, etc. We do have a Chihuahua who has no interest in her. Sometimes they both end up on the bed at the same time with no conflicts.

Is this something that is going to last forever with her? Right now, she is not like a pet, she is just an animal that lives in our house.

– Mark, Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear Mark,

I appreciate your patience with this sensitive soul. Believe it or not, I don’t think her anxieties will last forever, even though it has been two years so far. She has actually made progress, so here are a few more ways to keep things moving.

How to help your cat overcome her anxiety:

  1. Place plug-in feline pheromones around the house or get her a feline pheromone collar to wear. All animals emit pheromones, but when cats smell cat pheromones, it can trigger an endocrine response that calms them and reduces anxiety.
  2. Next, when she starts “talking” in the hall, open her treats and call her to you. Do not go get her, since it startles her. Instead, make her come all the way to you. Place a hideaway-type bed near or on the couch that she can dive into quickly if she is startled. That way, she doesn’t have to start all over again from the other end of the house.
  3. Finally, cats feel safer up high, so if you can afford it, buy her a tall scratching post with a hideaway hole located at the top for your television room. Leave a few liver treats in the hole to encourage her to climb up. If she doesn’t discover it on her own after a week, gently place her in it. She needs lots of hiding places around the house, so she can explore safely and learn there is nothing to be afraid of in your home.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal, CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 25 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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